“Can you get to 35 Oxford immediately, please? 35 Oxford. Some people have been shot.”
The 911 call to the Dayton Police Department in Ohio on Aug. 10, 2016, was suddenly cut off, only to be followed by a second call.
“Please hurry,” the caller said. “Please. Please Please. Please.”
Neighbors would later say they then heard as many as 10 shots.
The next thing they saw, police told the Dayton Daily News, was a man “casually” leaving the house.
Inside the Oxford Avenue house, they found three people shot, later identified as Tammy Cox, 53; her son, Michael Cox, 25; and her boyfriend, Jasper Taylor, 74. One was already dead. The others died shortly afterward.
A triple killing was startling enough in Dayton. The news that soon emerged — suggesting that it could have been prevented — made it more than another multiple murder. The man was mentally ill and knew it, according to court documents. He knew he had the potential to commit violence and indeed, was desperately attempting to obtain medication to protect himself and others, from harm.
A few hours before the shootings, it turned out, Muhammad Shabazz Ali, agitated and hallucinating, had been at two different mental health facilities seeking a refill for his medications, among them Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication, and Prozac, an antidepressant. At one of them, according to frantic 911 calls from the scene, he was throwing chairs and raiding the pharmacy, screaming “I want my medications. I want my medications.” Police arrived and transported him to a second facility, Grandview Medical Center.
Despite a police assessment there that he posed a “grave” and “imminent” danger to himself and others, especially to his ex-girlfriend, he was allowed to leave.
He showed up later that day at the at the home of the ex-girlfriend, Tammy Cox, on Oxford Avenue.
By the time police were called to that address, the imminent danger had become a grim reality.
Ten minutes after the shootings, Ali returned to one of the mental health facilities, the Day-Mont Behavioral Center, with a handgun, pursued by police, who took him into custody there.
Ali, 62, was indicted on 29 counts — including six for aggravated murder — for the three shooting deaths. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Could it have been stopped? Why didn’t the man get his medication for which he was pleading? Do the health-care facilities that allowed him to leave bear some responsibility? These questions are now the subject of a wrongful-death lawsuit pending in Ohio’s Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
The suit, brought by survivors of those killed, claims the behavioral center and a social worker wrongfully discharged Ali.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleges, they failed to appreciate how dangerous Ali was. They failed, for example, to flag Ali’s 1988 conviction for voluntary manslaughter and the more than 20 years in prison he served for the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Angela Richardson, who was eight months pregnant with his child. Ali was released from prison in 2009.
The lawsuit alleges that mental health care workers acted negligently by failing to properly examine, diagnose, treat and medicate Ali. These actions, the lawsuit claims, allowed Ali to “inflict the injuries, harm and damages to the plaintiffs.”
The families of the victims are suing “to make sure that this doesn’t happen to any other family,” their lawyer, Michael Wright, said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“This was very easily preventable,” Wright said. “Had they given Mr. Ali his medication, had they properly evaluated him, then these deaths wouldn’t have occurred.”
“This could have been caught multiple times and it just wasn’t,” he added.
Grandview Medical Center, one of the defendants in the amended lawsuit, declined to comment on the allegations when reached by The Washington Post.
Elizabeth Long, a spokeswoman for Kettering Health Network, which oversees Grandview, told The Post: “Unfortunately, due to patient privacy rights and pending litigation, we are unable to share any information at this time.”
Last year, Long told the Dayton Daily News that a person’s criminal history is not used to determine whether they are mentally ill. She said Ohio law requires that a person brought to a hospital for a mental evaluation be examined within 24 hours.
After that examination, she said, “if the chief clinical officer believes that the person is not a mentally ill person subject to hospitalization by court order, the chief clinical officer shall release or discharge the person immediately unless a court has issued a temporary order of detention.”
Day-Mont, another defendant in the lawsuit, did not respond to requests for comment from The Post.
But last year, a Day-Mont attorney said “Day-Mont denies that it was negligent, or that any treatment or care provided in its facility causally resulted in any harm or death to any other third party,” the Dayton Daily News reported.
In its written answers to previous versions of the complaint filed in court, both Day-Mont and Grandview denied the allegations and argued they could not be held legally responsible for Ali’s actions.
According to the suit, when Ali appeared agitated and violent at the Day-Mont Behavioral Health Center, unable to obtain his medications, police were called.
When police arrived, they gave him a “pink-slip” indicating he needed a mental health evaluation and took him to Grandview for emergency inpatient treatment, where staff noted that he was acting aggressively and hearing voices.
But the hospital staff decided not to admit Ali. The social worker did not believe he met the criteria for treatment. In her consultation note, the social worker reported, incorrectly, that Ali had no assault history, which the lawsuit called a “blatantly reckless false statement.”
“She ignored facts of harm to himself in the records and as reported by the police,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit suggests that Ali himself had been warning people that he was dangerous since his release from prison in 2009.
He had told a number of case managers and psychiatrists at Day-Mont about his conviction and violent outbursts, according to the suit.
In March 2009, he told a psychiatrist that he harbored resentful and retaliatory thoughts about someone from his past. But no one took efforts to identify the person or people Ali was referring to, according to the lawsuit.
The following year, he told his case manager he feared he would get involved in another violent domestic dispute. This was also not reported to police. Medical personnel made no attempts to send Ali to involuntary inpatient treatment, the suit alleges.
The lawsuit, which includes extensive details about Ali’s medical history, claims these records were not kept properly.
The suit says mental health professionals could have warned “identifiable victims” of the potential threat to their lives but failed to do so.
And, it alleges, he pleaded for help in the form of medication the month before the shootings. In July 2016, Ali met with his case manager, telling him he ran out of his psychiatric medication. The manager urged him to reschedule a missed doctor appointment so he could get his prescription refilled.
But, the lawsuit claims, the manager “failed to get Ali’s prescriptions filled through communications with the psychiatrist on duty at that time.” He was “aware of the absolute need for Ali to receive his medications regularly and his violent propensities to himself and others without it.”
On Aug. 8, Ali saw the case manager at Day-Mont and told him he could not wait any longer for his medication to be refilled. Two days later, Ali showed up at Day-Mont without a scheduled appointment and requested his medications immediately.
“Day-Mont had a duty to prescribe the medications to Ali which would have protected the Plaintiffs and prevented the harm,” the lawsuit states. A nurse reported that she heard Ali call Tammy Cox over the phone.
Then the social worker at Grandview determined Ali didn’t fit the criteria for inpatient treatment. The psychiatrist on duty did not independently evaluate Ali, according to court records.
Ali was discharged “without anyone bothering to ascertain if he had transportation or other means of getting home, and with no documented follow-up plan,” the suit says.
“Thereupon, Ali got into his truck and drove to the home of Tammy Cox,” according to the lawsuit. He “used a gun he possessed on his person, or in his truck” and “battered, shot” and killed them.”
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